Wednesday, 23 December 2009
He snored and the whistle noise happened at the same time....erm, ok....so it's not possible to breathe through your mouth and make a whistle noise through your nose at the same time. I sat up and listened trying to figure out where this noise was coming from....and then I realised....
It was the bloody cat!!
So a decision has been made....both Gai (the white one) and I are going on a diet in the new year!! (Seriously, I can't believe I was woken up in the middle of the night by our cat snoring!!)
Friday, 18 December 2009
First I want to apologise for my lack of blogging (and commenting).....I just seem to be running about like a headless chicken at the moment!! So, updates....
Then last weekend we got a visit from the lovely Susan (that's her and her hubby in the photo) who we've not seen since we left Bangkok. Actually, we've not seen Susan for about 18 months (She moved from Thailand to India and then stayed with us when she came back to Thailand for a holiday) and it was lovely to catch up with her. She arrived Saturday afternoon and headed off again Sunday afternoon after we had had a gorgeous Sunday Roast in the Smoking Dog. The only down side was that all of us had the lurgy in some form or another so it was a bit of a sedate evening.....mind you....we still managed to have some champers so it wasn't all bad!!
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Saturday, 28 November 2009
A friend of mine has suggested that I use the same technique and do a series of four paintings representing the four seasons. I think I might just have a go at doing that!!
Thursday, 26 November 2009
*goes off to do a wee happy dance*
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
I have to undertake a Community Profile for my Community Development module. The lectures so far have been on the history of Community Development (the theory and thoughts that have shaped what we do today), who has the power and how is that power used (It's scary how many organisations use their power to keep people oppressed), how communities are represented (Who is 'the voice' of that community and do they actually represent those they claim to or are they just voicing their own views), how to involve communities in the decision making process (in most instances the people that use the services are the best people to make decisions on how to improve those services) and what the best practices are for engaging and empowering the community. Last weeks lecture was cancelled because we were to spend the whole day on Saturday learning how to go about doing a Community Profile.
Now, before I go any further a Community Profile is defined as
'A comprehensive description of the needs of a community, and the resources that exist within that community, carried out with the active involvement of the community itself, for the purpose of developing an action plan or other means of improving the quality of life of the community' (Hawtin et al, 1994:5) (Ooohhh get me with my referencing!!)
Oh, and I should probably say that a community can be either a group of people living in a specific area, a group of people that share a common interest, a group of people from a particular ethnic group or a mixture of all of the above.
The community I am going to focus on is what is known as a 'hidden community'. I am going to be looking at people who are housebound due to illness in an area of Tower Hamlets (Tower Hamlets is too big to cover so I will have to chose a specific, smaller, location within it....I'm not sure where that will be yet but I have a few organisations to speak to who should be able to help me narrow it down).
I already know that the statistical part of the profile will not be easy to do but I am planning to get statistics from a number of organisations and then compare them in order to try and build up an overall view (I'm thinking Age Concern, GP Register, Social Services, NHS Trusts and the benefits agency...I will use the 2001 census as a starting point but the information contained in it will be very out of date so I don't think it will be very reliable.....if anyone has any other thoughts they would be most welcome) but there are two things that are worrying me. The first is the time scale, I only have three weeks in which to do everything, and the second is the reasons for doing the profile in the first place.
Don't get me wrong, I think Community Profiles are a wonderful tool that can be used for all sorts of brilliant things (to show where there are gaps in services, to highlight the fact that a service needs to be improved or expanded, to be used as part of a funding proposal....the list goes on). My problem is that I will be doing it because I need to submit a Community Profile for Uni....so what do the people I am profiling get out of it? Do you see what my problem is? If I just do it in order to pass my course then I'm just as bad as all those organisations who use people for their own gain and that goes against everything I stand for!!
My solution, sorry I'm using this post as a way of structuring my thoughts, is to identify three (I don't think I can do any more in the time I have) housebound patients to visit with the purpose of undertaking a 'Discovery Interview'. (This is an interview technique used to enable a patient to tell their 'health story' in their own words. It gives them an opportunity to talk to someone about the problems they have encountered, what experiences have been positive, how they feel emotionally as well as physically and how they feel things could be improved upon). If I did this then I could make the information anonymous and, via THINk, feed it directly back to those providing the services in that area. That way the people I was speaking to would benefit from the process and I could use the information to cover the community aspect of my profile and to form the action plan. I can't see any other way of doing the profile without exploiting those I want to help and I just can't do that!!
What do you think?
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Mini Me has shrunk........and.......not just a wee bit!!
(In case you've not been reading for long and are now wondering what the hell I'm on about....I have a benign tumour in my liver that Chris named Mini Me. Hehehe, yes the picture is my MRI scan and you can see her, the light fuzzy bit, on the left hand side...although she's much smaller now :-D. If your interested you can read about my diagnosis here)
She's gone from 3.5cm to 1.5cm which means that the medical people are no longer concerned about her.....which means I don't need to be either *does happy wiggle on sofa whilst trying not to drop laptop on the floor or disturb the cats*
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
The course itself is going well so far...it's not easy but it's going well. At the moment the focus on the 'Management for Working in Communities' module is all about using various methods to examine your behaviour and, if I'm honest, I'm finding that a bit intense. Some things have come as no surprise, some have taken me aback slightly and answering some of the why questions has been a rather painful process (still, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger eh!!). Once the 'Self Audit' assessment is out the way, it's due on the 6th of November, the focus of the module will shift and it will be about changing the negative behaviours and building on the positive ones and I think that process is going to be quite empowering so I'm looking forward to it!!
The Community Development module is proving absolutely fascinating!! We're learning about the history of Community Development (not just in this country but across the world), looking at the different ways of defining a 'community' and at conflict within communities. We have people from all walks of life on the course.....I am learning a hell of a lot about the flaws (gaping chasms) in our countries current policies, racism in all it's shapes and forms and about what brings people together and blows them apart!! The first assignment for this class is due on the 10th of December and is to take the form of a community profile (I'll come back to what my options are on this later) which I think will be a very useful tool for identifying needs and finding solutions to some current issues within the community being focused on.
I've also started work (unpaid sadly, but hopefully that will change in the future) at an organisation called THINk. (THINk is Tower Hamlets version of LINk (Local Involvement Networks)....the LINk's took over from where the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forums left off and there is one in every Local Authority area in England). The people are lovely and I think it's going to work out well!! We have agreed a scope of work and, happily, the areas that they would like me to focus on fit perfectly with what I'm being asked to do for Uni. So I will be undertaking a number of community profiles.....probably one involving young people, another one looking at a specific group within the Bangladeshi community and one focusing on patients that are currently housebound. I will also be conducting discovery interviews, coming up with a way of capturing 'patient experience' for those with long term illnesses and producing a report based on a piece of work I did in Salford which we are going to try and adapt to fit with what's going on in Tower Hamlets.
So, as I said, the course is going well....what's not going quite so well is how I'm feeling. I'm finding the travelling and being away from home aspect really tough!! I knew I was going to miss Chris but didn't expect to feel like I'm living two lives and both of them out of a suitcase. It's only my fourth week and already I am shattered......I leave home at about 10.30am on the day I leave for London and I don't get to Tom's till about 10.30pm. (It's a long day and that's the day I do the tough personality stuff!!). I work the next day (which will involve evening meetings and did last week) and the following day....then when works finished I head over to Uni for another three hour lecture, get the tube to Paddington and then get the train home. (Chris picks me up from the station but I don't actually walk in the door till about 11.30pm). I know that this will probably get easier as I get used to it and it becomes routine but at the moment I feel like I'm just get settled at home when I'm off to London again and vice versa.
I shouldn't complain, a good friend of mine is having to cope with a lot worse, but I just know that I'm going to look like a mad old hag by the end of this semester (and if any of you say anything about already looking like a mad old hag I will be forced to bash you!!) so god alone knows how bad it's going to be by the end of the year!! Still, I guess it will help with the scaring of young children so it's not all bad!! *grins*
Monday, 26 October 2009
Friday, 23 October 2009
We had a lovely weekend!!
On Saturday night I took him to a local restaurant called 'The Vine Tree' which had been recommended by a friend!! We were not disappointed....the food was fantastic!!
I bought him a limited edition Dr Who Master's Fob Watch
a limited edition copy of 'The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun' by J.R.R. Tolkien. It's leather bound and beautiful to look at!!
and his last present arrived today (I'm safe to post about it now....he's on his way home from the office). I used MyPublisher and created a book of his best photo's (I was inspired by the Fall Colours idea). I used songs with colours in their titles that were released in 1969.....I opened the package earlier and the book looks great!! (I've wrapped it up so can't post any photo's yet but I will once he's opened it!!)
On Sunday, we had a lovely relaxing day....went to the pub in the afternoon and then I cooked a three course Moroccan meal and we spent the evening eating and drinking.
We're looking forward to seeing everyone in Scotland in a few weeks where we will be having another celebration!!
Sunday, 18 October 2009
don't despair, oh no
overnight you won't discover
you've lost your get up and go.
Nor will you become all wrinkled
nor ache from head to toe
so even though your ripening
don't regard it as a blow,
you won't suddenly look decrepit
...Cos that happened long ago!!!
Happy 40th Birthday Honey
Thursday, 15 October 2009
I decided that I would do a post about some of the 'Green Gadgets' that are available, or are about to become available, on the market. (Oooh I do love gadgets don't you....and some of these are really clever!!)
Did you know that researchers at Leeds University have come up with a washing machine design that only uses one cup of water to wash a complete load of washing? The machine heats the water and converts it into vapour, the beads in the vapour remove the stains and, once the cycle is finished, they fall through a mesh in the machines drum and the same water can be used over a hundred times!! (How cool is that!!). It uses much less water and much less electricity and is going to be available to buy next year.
You could get yourself a Powerbrella!! ('A what?' I hear you say 'What on earth is a Powerbrella?'). Powerbrella's are large umbrella's made of flexible solar film.....you put them up to shade you from the sun when your sitting out having your barbecue, reading your book in the garden or are down by the beach and the suns energy is used to power what ever you have with you....mobile phone, laptop, i-pod...anything that needs power basically!! From what I understand, these are available on the market now and the company that produces the solar film are looking into using it to make solar powered clothing and bags. (I would love a bag that charged my mobile!!)
How about a Battery Wizard? This nifty little gadget not only re-charges your rechargable batteries but it can bring your dead non-rechargable batteries back to life!! (I want you to know that I'm resisting making references to Dr Frankenstein) ('It's alive!!' *snigger*) (sorry!!). Apparently it can recharge standard alkaline, NiCad and NiMH disposable batteries up to 10 times so you get 10 times more use out of them before having to throw them away!!
On your bike!! No, I'm not telling you to bugger off!! I'm suggesting that you could treat yourself to a BioLogic FreeCharge (Bargain at only £50). It's a gadget that attaches to your bike’s dynamo, granting you the opportunity to charge your mobile, I-pod etc just by pedaling your bike. It works by using the energy produced by your pedaling to charge an internal battery and then it transfers the current to your gizmo. (By first charging the internal battery it means whatever you are charging will not be affected by the velocity of your pedaling). Some people just come up with brilliant idea's don't they!!
Motorolla have launched, what they are calling, the world first carbon neutral mobile phone. It is made of recycled water bottles and, through an alliance with carbonfund.org, they have offset the carbon dioxide required to manufacture, distribute and operate the phone through investments in renewable energy sources and reforestation. In addition, the phone comes in packaging made from recycled paper and it contains a stamped envelope for you to send your old mobile back to Motorola for recycling.
Last but not least....you can now buy laptops that are encased using Bamboo instead of plastic!! Bamboo is the most sustainable raw material there is because it grows so fast! Not only are the results achingly beautiful (seriously, I so want one!!) but it has been tested to ensure it can withstand continuous use and has the added advantage of not being instantly recognisable as a laptop. Dell, Assus, and Fujitsu are among the companies now producing them.
Every little helps!!
Monday, 12 October 2009
Here are some of this years winners (These are great!!)
The Ig Nobel Public Health Prize was awarded to Dr Elena Bodnar who designed and produced a bra that, in an emergency, can be converted into two gas masks. She demonstrated her invention and gave one to each of the Nobel laureates as a gift.
The Ig Nobel Veterinary Medicine Prize was awarded to Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University for showing that cows with names give more milk than cows that are nameless.
The Ig Nobel Literature Prize was awarded to Irelands Police Service for writing and presenting more than 50 traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country, Prawo Jazdy, who's name in Polish means 'Driving Licence'
and last but not least
The Ig Nobel Mathematics Prize went to the governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank for printing bank notes with such a wide range of denominations.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
I have good experience in the sector. Whilst in Manchester I worked with 5 Patient and Public Involvement Forums (They looked at the healthcare system from the patients perspective and then worked with the professionals to improve the services), the Community Collective in Salford (This comprised of 16 social enterprise, charity and community groups getting together to undertake meaningful public consultations on behalf of the public sector) as well as winning, designing and delivering on, a 12 week public consultation for the countries 2nd largest cancer hospital. Whilst in Thailand I set up and ran the BWG Welfare Team (Team of five people who researched funding requests, made recommendations to the BWG Committee, distributed the funding and then did the necessary checks), created a 'People Bank' of volunteers to work in charities across Bangkok, sat on the Board for Operation Smile (Charity responsible for providing Cleft lip and Cleft Palate operations to those in remote areas that couldn't afford them) and was involved in setting up tour's for the blind at Bangkok's National Museum. I have always managed to deliver on what has been asked of me but I've always felt that the journey to get there would have been smoother if I had more resources (and by that I mean knowledge of tried and tested methods) at my finger tips.
I'm taking two modules this semester (Management for Working in Communities and Community Development) and two next semester (Organisational Development for Working in Communities and Social Structures and Policies). I had my first lecture/Seminar the other day and already I have learned something about the way I manage projects and approach the management of staff.....which is just as well really since I have to produce an essay in three weeks outlining my strengths and weaknesses in that area!! I had to produce a life line detailing significant points in my life and my emotional reactions to them and then complete a questionnaire of 100 statements grading my response to them (did I completely agree, sometimes feel like that, generally feel like that or completely disagree)...the results were interesting!! (I'm sure I'm going to have a few 'Oh, that's how I do it' moments and also a few 'Oh, I wish I'd known about that method' moments too!!)
I really do think I have made the right choice regarding the course and I already know that I'm going to get a hell of a lot out of it!! (Gosh, things change fast don't they!! How different is this post compared to the last time I blogged about Uni!!). I really had forgotten just how much I love learning!! (Yes, I am aware of how sad that is!!)
On another note, I will try and keep blogging regularly and I will make a point of trying to get round all your blogs too but I might not comment as regularly as I have been. Please don't all abandon me!!
Monday, 5 October 2009
and if you think that looks good...you should read the book :-D
(I already have, advantage of being writers daughter, and I can promise you that it's a page turner!!)
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
To begin with, during the actual registration process, I discovered that the course is going to cost twice as much as we had been expecting. Now I know the actual amount, it's clear that the information I was given was the price per semester not per year but that was not my understanding at the time. (To say that it was a bit of a shock would be something of an understatement!). Chris and I discussed it last night when I got home and, because we can spread the cost, it should be alright. (He was so good about it....said he views it as an investment in our future and, despite the fact that I made the most of our time in Thailand, he knew that I gave up a lot career wise when we moved).
My timetable, however, is going to be considerably more difficult to work around!!
I had been told, but had seen nothing in writing till last night, that the course would be one evening a week followed by a full day and that they would run consecutively. When I got the actual timetable it turns out that my modules will both be in the evening and they don't run consecutively. Chris and I don't want to feel like we're living separate lives...we're just starting to feel like we have a life together again after all the hours he worked in Thailand.
So all this was going through my head when we learned exactly what is going to be expected of us over the duration of the two years.
We were told that reading a few books and being able to provide an accurate summary of the information and ideas was not going to impress any of the academic staff nor were they going to be particularly interested in reading about how one of our opinions could be justified by using someone's theory to back it up. If we are confident in our writing ability then absolute perfection will be expected and having good ideas is not going to be enough if we don't have the skills to express them, research their viability and implement them. (There are free courses offered on how to do this at the University). The style of learning will be very reflective and we will be expected to examine, critique and de-construct our views and actions and, through that process, show what we have learned and how we have developed. (Does that sound a bit scary to you? It sure as hell does to me and it did to the other two people that were there too!!)
I can see where this is coming from and why it's necessary. The third sector has been rapidly expanding over the last few years and is going to continue to do so (especially in this economic climate!!). Some organisations, like the one Chris's sister works for, do an absolutely amazing job (and manage to do it on a shoestring!!) but others....well....others don't do quite such an amazing job and it's those that give the third sector critics their ammunition (and sometimes make those that work in the sector feel as if they are banging their heads against a brick wall!!). All the tutors on this course work out in the 'real world' as well as lecture and they have put this course together as part of a wider agenda to try and establish an industry standard. The reason for the reflective learning is to look at more than just whether the targets were met but at how they were met (what were the experiences of those involved in the process and, taking those experiences on-board, how could the process be improved as well as challenging our core beliefs and perceptions of how things are, how they operate and making us question our own behaviour within that context).
I knew that the Masters was going to be challenging and that it was going to involve a lot of hard work and I was prepared for that. I wasn't prepared for the fact that I would have to go through such self scrutiny and I suspect that it is probably going to be a rather painful process. (Seriously, would you want to examine yourself that closely?)
I felt like I had reached a crossroads last night....I could choose to walk away from the University idea (I would probably still be able to get a job in the sector) or I could commit to the course which would give me the chance of having a proper career. Well, I'm not one to walk away from a challenge...and writing this has actually helped me process it all.
Anyway, I do have some exciting news to share too!! In order to be able to do the reflective aspect of the course properly I need to be actively involved in a community development role which I am not currently (mainly because I needed to know timetables etc before I could commit to anything). The course Director specialises in the health sector (He knows and works with everyone there is to know) and because of my experience in that area he has offered me a volunteer position within his organisation (I wouldn't be working with him directly it would be one of his colleagues). It's a win win. He would be getting a volunteer with experience (and who would be building upon that experience) and I would get the opportunity to put into practice what I was learning on the course, learn from people very knowledgeable in their field and work in a very prestigious organisation. I'm going to accept the offer (I think I would be mad not to!!)
Saturday, 26 September 2009
This is a photograph of the Peace Vessel at Hellfire Pass. It was erected in honour of the 12, 436 Prisoners of War who lost their lives during the building of the Burmese-Siam railway.
A fisherman out catching his dinner in the village of Ban Talae Nok. There used to be houses on that stretch of beach but they were destroyed in the Tsunami.
This is a photograph of the world longest handmade bridge. It's in Sangklaburi and was built by the Mon people with no help from engineers or anything!! (When you look at it from the side it looks a bit like the game Kerplunk...you just have to not think about that when your crossing)
Temple roof at dusk just outside Kanchanaburi.
and last but not least
In Cambodia there is an entire community that live on a 'floating village' at Tonle Sap. They never leave the water (they even have a floating church and a school!!) and they use these contraptions to store their boats. Amazing how some people live isn't it!!
Anyway, I hope you have all enjoyed looking at our photos over the past week.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Thursday, 24 September 2009
This is a photograph of a carved wood panel in a door frame at Jim Thompson's House. Jim Thompson was responsible for saving the Thai silk industry and bringing it to the world.
This one is of a sunken temple in Sangklaburi. The original town has been completely submerged and, depending on the time of year, you will be able to see parts of the old temple emerging from the water.
I took this when I went on a trip to Mae Hong Son which is on the Thai/Burmese border. This is the machine the villagers use to make their rice.
This is a Buddha at the Khmer Temple Muang Sing just outside Kanchanaburi.